Walks Around Harlow
Fore Street, Park Hill, London Road and Station Road
High Streets all over the U.K. have undergone dramatic changes during the past twenty years and Harlow's is no exception. Large national and multi-national corporations have taken over a large portion of the retail sector, squeezing out many of the smaller, locally-owned businesses that were always the backbone of High Street retailing. The unceasing efforts of the big corporations to increase the profitability of their operations has led inexorably to ever-larger stores, usually surrounded by acres of parking. Consequently most of the 'big box' or 'superstores' are located on the periphery of the towns or, even worse, miles away at a major highway interchange. In too many cases the desperate efforts of local planning officers to prevent the construction of such stores have been futile. The development of the Tesco store in Harlow's Edinburgh Way is an excellent example of such a story. There is no doubt that the new retail landscape is more convenient for those who shop by car, that prices are lower and the selection of goods better. But the inevitable result has been a steady erosion of the rich retail mix that characterized the High Street, and the increasing isolation of those, especially the elderly who either do not, or cannot shop at the peripheral superstores. The cultural landscape of Harlow, like so many other towns in England, has been seriously degraded by these trends.
It is difficult to realize how vibrant the commercial core of Harlow once was. As recently as 1990 people in Old Harlow could have purchased most of their daily necessities and many of their long-term ones as well in High or Market Street. In High Street alone there were 3 banks, 3 restaurants, 2 butchers, 2 greengrocers, 2 bakeries, 2 newsagents, a pharmacy, a hardware store, an optician, an undertaker, an off-licence, a fish-and-chips takeaway a public library and several estate agents. Some of these functions remain, but many have disappeared, too often replaced by the office of an estate agent - of which there are now one in Station Road, 2 in Market Street and 6 in High Street (where there were 7 until one closed in July 2011). The Harlow Council has a policy of regulating the number of similar businesses in any particular area, but it is difficult to see how this has been applied to the Old Harlow Shopping Centre.
The following notes are intended to be more than a contemporary description of the townscape in the immediate vicinity of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Campus. They are probably more detailed than strictly necessary, but hopefully they will give you a sense of the interesting history of this small piece of England. That they will remind you that Harlow has been successfully adapting to the social and economic changes of the past 900 years.
I have been able to provide descriptions of only a few of the occupants of some of the buildings. The list is far from complete. But it has not been possible to identify every individual trader, or map the locations in which they lived or worked. From archival and anecdotal material I know the names of many butchers, confectioners, saddlers and harness makers, bootmakers, stationers, builders and jobbers, outfitters, drapers, corn merchants and provisioners who traded in this small area of Harlow, but from locations that I have not been able to identify. Despite the incomplete record, my hope is that anybody who reads these notes and then goes for a walk along High, Market or Fore Street will remember that the current traders in the various shops are just the most recent in a long line of craftsmen, merchants and entrepreneurs, all of whom have made a contribution to the development of the town.
The notes are based on a number of sources. These include the 1875, 1921 and 1947 Ordnance Survey maps, the Kelly Directory of Essex, a description of Harlow in 1938 which can be found in the archives section of the Museum of Harlow, and a series of maps dating from the 1950s and 1960s prior to the redevelopment of the High Street by Sir Frederick Gibberd. The historic photographic images are reprinted with the permission of the Museum of Harlow.
1. 'Listed' Buildings, i.e. those considered by English Heritage to be of particular architectural and/or historic merit are identified by an asterisk (*).
2. The text was originally written in the spring of 2004, and then extensively revised between November 2010 and July 2011. Some of the descriptions will now be out-of-date so if you notice errors or omissions, please contact Chris Sharpe at email@example.com.
3. Station and London Roads run almost due north/south. High and Market Streets run east/west. All four meet at what was historically known as The George Corner.
Back (Market) and Fore Streets, 1875
Back (Market) and High Streets, 1921
Market and High Streets, 1948
1 Fore Street* The Gables is a mediaeval hall house built around 1500 The cross-wing on the east end has a 17th century oriel window (more recently reglazed) on the first floor where the best rooms were, facing London Road. An original door, now blocked but still visible, gave access from Fore Street to a shop which housed a bakery in the 1840s. The cross wing on the west end was added ca 1600 and strangely has no internal connection with the rest of the building. The whole structure was 'Georgianized' in the 18th century, the roof was raised and the interior divided. The present front door was the mediaeval entrance to the cross-passage. At the turn of the 19th century part of the building was occupied by the offices of the Water Works. During the 1940s, Rhoda's Snack Bar was located here. For many years, since at least the 1970s, most of the original building has been the Gables Restaurant. One of the more memorable events it hosted was in February 1980 when the Arsenal football club celebrated its 1979 FA Cup victory.
The west wing was reorganized in the 19th century to accommodate a shop. From the 1930s until the mid 1950's it was occupied by A. Goodwin's Harlow Electrical Installations ('Complete systems installed for lighting. Bells, power, heating, lighting repairs and renewals speedily executed') and then by David C. Evans, Electrical Engineer. Since 1990 it has been the premises of Graham Rogers, jeweller and goldsmith. He is a member of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, one of the 12 great Livery Companies of London, which received its first Royal Charter in 1327, and is still responsible for the issuance of hallmarks on gold, silver and platinum. The pictures show how the appearance of the building has changed over the years. In 1910 the building was rendered with stucco in the traditional manner, but this was removed in 1917 when the lease was renewed, because it was by then fashionable to expose the timbers.
Seeley's: The houses of this estate occupy the former sites of Chaplin's Brewery; the Brewery House, and the large house occupied by the Seeley family, which fronted on London Road. It spent the last years of its life occupied by offices of the Ministry of Labour, before it was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the new houses of the neighbourhood which bears the family's name.
Thomas Chaplin ran breweries in Essex between 1848 and 1926. The brewery in Fore Street, and the adjacent house, were built in 1897. The chimney of the engine house which powered the water pump in the brewery's well is a prominent feature in many old photographs. In the late 1920s the now-disused brewery was taken over by Windowlite, manufacturers of a type of plastic sheeting reinforced with wire mesh that was much used in greenhouses and, during the war, to replace the windows in London's bombed-out houses. Brewery House survived until the development of the Seeleys neighbourhood in 1965.
17 Fore Street*. A late-Georgian (ca 1840) house and shop formerly known as Gresham Villa. The shop front is probably original. Kelly's Directory indicates that a saddlers and harness makers was located in Fore Street from the 1870's until 1933 - the most recent edition available to the author. John Thomas Mumford was the first (1978-1898), then William Malcolm Thomas (1922) and finally Joseph Young (1933). There are very few places where these saddlers could have traded in Fore Street, and it was most likely here. In 1956 there were still two occupants of this building - Mrs. M Young at No. 17 and Gresham Villa at No. 19. The two units were integrated, probably in the 1980s. For many years, and still, at the time of writing (Marchry, 2011) this has been the home of Joan Lloyd, Manager of the MUN Harlow Campus in the 1970s and her husband David, author of The Making Of The English Town, a wonderful book which I used as a text for many years.
21 Fore Street*. Orchard Cottage. A 16th century timber-framed cottage. Note the frame of the small original window just to the left of the door. The rest of the windows are later additions. Note that the photo taken in the mid 1960s shows that the timber frame was rendered over and the window was hidden. The exposed timbers are now protected by beeswax. The extent to which the level of Fore Street has risen over the years is shown by the level of the door sill.
23 and 25 Fore Street*. Two brick cottages, dated 1835. From 1896 until 1979, 23 was the shop and 25 (now known as 'Ashton') the house of the Collins family. They were prominent members of the Baptist congregation as well as the business community of Harlow, having been in the wheelwright and coach building business since 1816. Three generations of the men in this family ran Collin's Cycle shop. Originally they sold Raleigh, B.S.A. and Royal Enfield cycles and motorcycles and later diversified into automobile repairs and the sale of petrol. This was the first house in Harlow to be provided with electricity supplied by a gasoline-powered generator. The shop was originally in High Street, but moved to Fore Street in 1896.
The bicycles collected by Mr. Collins were sold to the Harlow Town Council in 1978 and are now in the Museum of Harlow, housed in the former Mark Hall stable block.
Baptist Chapel: Rebuilt in 1865 to replace an older chapel built in 1764.
Park Hill (sometimes called The Forebury) is the western end of Fore Street, leading to the Netteswell or Roydon Road which is now a cycle track. In 1833 there were 10 malt houses in Harlow. One of these, Reid's, perhaps dating to the late 18th century was a thatched, weather-boarded structure that survived until the 1960's, when it was the Harlow Parks Department workshop and stores. Previous occupants were Fyfe Wilson Limited, Electrical Engineers, which made dynamos for diesel engines and power generating stations; a manufacturer of paper bags, one of whose clients was Fortnum and Mason of Piccadilly and then Spivey's, a manufacturer of women's undergarments. The Leys, a large house at the north end of the cul-de-sac at the bottom of Park Hill, was built in 1925 by Charles Coleman on the site of the brick malt kiln.
1 (Dower House)* Park Hill A 17th century roughcast, timber-framed house, Despite having been re-fronted in the 19th century (when the pedimented door was inserted) it retains its jettied first floor. Around the turn of the 20th century it housed Basil Scruby's doll factory.
3 (The Old House)* Park Hill: A late 18th century addition to Dower House, decorated with fake 'half timbering' . The sash windows were inserted in the 18th century, and the doorway with its open pediment in the early 19th century. This was the second house (in the 1890s) of Samuel Deards. His first house, in the 1970s, was Lawson's Cottage, next to the Chequers, and his third was West House, next door. In 1898 Kelly's Directory describes him (presumably using text supplied by Deards himself) as "inventor and patentee of the 'Victoria Dry Glazing' 50 tons or 60,000 feet used at the Colonial and India Exhibition, South Kensington; well adapted for railway, exhibition and conservatory roofs; also the patent coil boilers for churches, chapels, greenhouses and conservatories; appointed hot water engineer to 'Venice in London'; painter, glazier; lumber and gasfitter'.
Penshurst: Until the 1969 redevelopment of Park Hill a large house known as 'Penshurst' was accessed by a land between The Old House and West House. The housing 1980s housing estate built on the site of the old house, and of the veterinary surgery (see below) retains the historic name.
7 Park Hill*: West House. An early 19th century house in stock brick. It was the home of Dr. Richard Theodore Grubb, LRCP Edin., MRCS Eng., Medical Officer of Health and Vaccinator from at least 1874. After his death in 1909 it was bought by Sam Deards, whom we would consider a typical Victorial entrepreneur. He was the proprietor of Deards' Victoria Dry-Glazing works and the inventor of the cricket score-board which has become a standard feature of the English landscape. His Victoria Works was located behind the house, on a site now occupied by the houses of the 1980s vintage Penshurst estate.
9 Park Hill. Hemsford*. A mid- to late 19th century brick building. In September 1947, when it was owned by Messrs. Windolite , Epping Rural District Council which was then the governing body for Harlow, granted permission for J. Cowlin and Sons to convert the building into two houses. The absence of a door on the west end of the building suggests that it was subsequently converted back to a single residence. Veterinary Surgery: Until the 1969s redevelopment of Park Hill, the veterinary surgery and stables of J.E.M. Ridge was accessed by a lane on the west side of Hemsford.
15 - 17 Park Hill. A pair of late-19th century brick cottages originally known as No. 1 and 2 Park Villas.
OddFellows Hall. Inserted on the corner of Broadway Avenue in 1960. While undoubtedly a very useful building, it unfortunately doesn't contribute anything to the visual appeal of this end of Park Hill.
6 - 16 Park Hill: 'Oddfellow's Terrace'. The Oddfellows were a 'friendly society' and played an important role in the community in the days before the welfare state. The organization made payments to its members when sickness, injury or unemployment made it necessary. In 1910 the Mulberry Tree Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Manchester Unity, built two terraces of six brick cottages to provide both housing accommodation and rental income. This is one, and the other (numbers 1 - 6 Mulberry Terrace) , is around the corner in Broadway Avenue. The Terrace in Park Hill bears a Memorial Tablet commemorating 40 of their brothers who had died during the conflict. It reads: "Mulberry Tree Lodge I.O.O.F. M.U. In abiding fraternal memory of our worthy brothers who fell in the Great War 1914 - 1918" .
28 - 34 Park Hill. A row of red brick cottages, ca. 1900, originally known as Park Villas,
1 London Road: An early 18th century facade on an earlier house, originally known as 'Welfords'. Although it faces on to London Road, the building is structurally part of the buildings to the east, which front onto High Street. The house had extensive grounds, including an orchard, to the south. From 1910 to 1923 it was Mr. Cattell's chemist's shop. It then became the Provincial, later the National Provincial and Union Bank of England. The bank closed in 1965 and the vacant building was then set on fire twice by arsonists before it was bought by Robert Mead in 1974.
2 London Road: The Old Bank House: D 'n G Barbers. The building dates from about 1875. It may originally have been a branch of Sparrow, Rufnell and Co. of Bishop's Storford, which was absorbed into Barclay's Bank in 1896. The sign in the window of the old photograph below identifies it as a branch of Barclay's. It was later occupied by Charles Varney's Betting Office, Harlow's first travel agency, prior to its relocation to the Town Centre, Joe Jennings Bookmaker, before its relocation to High Street, and an estate agent.
Fawbert and Barnard's School. This school appears to have evolved from one established by Montague Burgoyne of Mark Hall. In 1802 he built a school on Godsafe's Charity Land in High Street - a school that was initially supported by both churchmen and nonconformists. But doctrinal disputes inevitably arose, partly because of the founder's interest in the British Society, and it seems to have been closed in 1836. However, in that year a Harlow maltster, John Barnard, built a non-denominational school in London Road using £7,000 bequeathed to him for charitable purposes by George Fawbert of Waltham Cross, who had died in 1824. Barnard stipulated that there was to be 'no interference by the Church' in the affairs of the school. It was intended to accommodate 200 children from Harlow, Latton, Netteswell, Great and Little Parndon, Magdalen and Little Laver, Sheering, Matching and two parishes in Hertfordshire: Gilston and Eastwick. By 1855 the locals were referring to it as the British School which suggests it was a continutation of Burgoyne's foundation. An infant school was added in 1892 and a boys' classroom in 1897. A technical instruction block was added in 1912 and three classrooms in 1947. It was the only school in the area equipped to teach domestic science to girls and woodworking to boys.
Oakwood Mews, consisting of 7 cottages and flats, was built in 2004 on the site of Darlington Motors, which moved to Edinburgh Way in the late 1990s. Arthur Sutton was the first motor engineer in Old Harlow, and he established his business here in 1914. He was succeeded in 1925 by Dearloves Garage and petrol station which also had workshops across the road on the site now occupied by 12 two-bedroom flats built in 2004. During the Second World War these workshops were taken over by F.D. Products, a producer of fish paste.
In the mid 1950s E.C. Careless, "China and Hardward Stores: Any and Every Necessary Article For Your Home" traded out of premises in a cottage at the end of a narrow alley known as The Dockyard, apparently because horses were brought here to have their tails docked. The cottages were demolished to make way for an extension to Darlington's premises. Select House occupies part of the site.
The Old Butcher's Shop. Mulberry Green Estates. Originally a smithy, the building was converted in 1937 to a butcher's shop by Mr. Bayford, and a first floor flat added. The flat has now been converted to commercial premises and is occupied by P.J. Conveyancing Services. Previous occupants of the ground floor were: Caroline Mitchell Hairdressers (relocated to New Hall in 2010); Geoffrey Matthew Estate Agents (prior to their relocation to High Street), and Kent and Brown's Turf Accountants.
Evans Garage is the successor to the builder's yard of S.C. Aldridge and, before that, the yard of The George.
Zenz Oriental Restaurant occupies the premises formerly occupied by the short-lived Snappers Wine Bar, and previously by the London Co-Operative Society store (which later relocated to High Street) and a branch of The London County and Westminster Bank. The two storey part, formerly the Co-Op store, was built ca. 1890 as the offices for a short-lived newspaper called The People's News. After the paper folded in 1909 it became a lodging house called 'The Welcome'. The paper's press room. was converted to an antique shop before being taken over by the London County and Westminster Bank.in 1911.
Darlington Court. This residential development was built in 2003 on the former site of Darlington's Garage, which was the successor to Dearlove's Garage which took over from Sutton's Garage. The 1898 Kelly's Directory lists Arthur Sutton as a coachbuilder and wheelwright. By 1922, when he last appeared in the directory, he was a coachbuilder and motor engineer. There were shops off the forecourt of the garage. One was occupied by Hefferden the barber who was succeeded in 1922 by Ashwells Jewellers of Bishop's Stortford (who later moved into High Street) and the other by Foot the confectioner.
The top left photo below shows this stretch of Station Road in 1910. In the left foreground is Rochester's Greengrocery who provided 'wreaths and crosses at shortest notice') Next is Brazier's Harlow Toilet Salon, and then the entrance to Arthur Sutton's Garage. Next is the building which housed the Cooperative and then 'The Welcome'. Beyond that is 'Gothic House' on the corner of High Street.
'Faircotes' and 'Fairfield': Wilson Davies and Company, Solicitors, occupy what were formerly two semi-detached, three-storey houses. 'Fairfield' was occupied by the Dearlove family, owners of the adjacent garage, and then by Peggy's ladies hairdressers. 'Faircotes' was once occupied by Herbert Mace a highly-respected apiarist, author of several books on beekeeping and editor of 'The Beekeepers Annual'.
Barclay's Bank*: An 18th century house, occupied by the only bank maintaining a presence in Old Harlow. The bank was originally located in the Old Bank House in London Road, but moved to these newly-built premises in 1911,
Old Lloyd's Bank: Masterson Funeral Home. This black and white 'Tudor' style building was originally a house built by a house agent from Bishop's Stortford. It was then the first site of Lloyd's Bank in Harlow. After the bank moved to High Street the building remained disused for approximately 20 years until 2004 when it became a funeral home. Jerome Masterson, the proprietor, is also one of the publicans of The Crown in Market Street.
Beyond the last of the houses in Station Road, one of which was a doctor's surgery, were eight shops (See the 1930 Ordnance Survey map at left). In the 1930s one was occupied by Herbert O. Lee and Co., ironmongers, advertising their services as: "General and Furnishing Ironmongers, Oil and Colour Merchants, Cutlery and Tools, Guns and Ammunition, Lamps, Oil Heating and Cooking Stoves". At various times there was also an antique dealer, Cornwall Austin's sweet shop, a café, an Employment Exchange, Peggy's Hairdressers and Sworder's Estate Agents.
|Table of Contents|
|Harlow's History and Geography|
|Introduction & The Origins of Harlow||The Structure of Harlow||Industry|
|Second World War Airfields|
|Walks Around Harlow|
|Market Street & St. John's Walk||Fore Street, Park Hill, London & Station Roads||High Street|
|Harlow New Town|
|The Origins of the New Town Programme||Important Developments in Harlow New Town|
|References & Acknowledgements|